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Opinion

Congress lost focus, Pranab wrote in his memoirs

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Congress lost “political focus”, Sonia Gandhi was “unable to handle party affairs”, Manmohan Singh’s “prolonged absence from Parliament” eroded contact with other MPs, and had she still been in active politics, the party I would not do it. they have faced the “beating” they received in 2014, according to former President Pranab Mukherjee in his posthumously published memoir, The Presidential Years 2012-2017.

In a comprehensive autobiography, the late Mukherjee, who passed away in 2020, has documented his years as president, weaving together the personal and the political.

The 2014 mandate

Mukherjee noted that he expected the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to be the largest party in the 2014 elections with 195-200 seats, and although most political interlocutors had given him a similar feeling, only Piyush Goyal, then treasurer of the BJP, who had said the party would win between 265-280 seats. When the final numbers came in, with the BJP gaining a comfortable majority on their own, Mukherjee writes: “I was enormously relieved by the decisive term, but also disappointed in the performance of my previous match. It was hard to believe that Congress had managed to win only 44 seats … I feel like the party did not recognize the end of its charismatic leadership.

Its two PM

In his assessment of the two prime ministers Mukherjee worked with, the late president noted that Manmohan Singh had “determination … a strong sense of propriety … will of steel” and documented his long relationship with the former prime minister.

Mukherjee said he had a clear understanding of his role as president and had decided not to cross the limits imposed on him, but on one occasion he asked Singh about an ordinance his government was bringing. “Sensing my concern, the prime minister spoke to his minister, who later informed me that the government had decided to withdraw the ordinance.”

On Modi, Mukherjee said his approach to maintaining cordial ties stemmed from his belief in the parliamentary form of government and that Modi had received a decisive mandate, and that they both knew how to handle those differences, “without making them public.” .

Demonetization

The late president said that Prime Minister Modi had not consulted him before the demonetization announcement in 2016, but believed that criticism that the prime minister should have entered into consultations was unwarranted. “The demonetization could not have been done with prior consultation because the abruptness and surprise, absolutely necessary for such announcements, would have been lost after such a process.”

But after addressing the nation, the prime minister visited Mukherjee and said he had three goals: tackling black money, fighting corruption and containing terrorist financing. Mukherjee said that four years after demonetization, one thing could be said: The multiple goals of the decision have not been met.

He then recounts how this was not new, and Mukherjee had sent a note on demonetization in the early 1970s to the Prime Minister’s Office. Indira Gandhi later rejected the suggestion, “noting that a large part of the economy was not yet fully monetized and a substantial part of it was in the informal sector.”

Foreign policy

In his assessment of Prime Minister Modi’s handling of foreign policy, Mukherjee noted: “One might expect the unexpected from Modi because he had come without an ideological foreign policy baggage.” But the late president disagreed with all of his steps, in particular the prime minister’s 2015 stopover in Lahore, calling it “unnecessary and unjustified.”

On China, Mukherjee said on his visit to the country in 2016, at the formal banquet, he and President Xi Jinping had an hour-long discussion, mostly without an interpreter, although one was present, with Xi asking questions about the Indian Government operation, constitutional framework and policy implementation. The only time he looked for an interpreter was when Mukherjee spoke about the McMahon Line. “After the discussion, (the then Foreign Secretary), S Jaishankar ran up to me and asked if anything important had been discussed. I told him that the only important thing was to review the history of the Indian Constitution and its operation since the 1950s. “

Requests for mercy

Mukherjee, who earned a reputation for rejecting clemency petitions from those sentenced to death, also wrote about the pain and anguish in making these decisions. “The president is not the punishment authority … the president is the last resort.” It would take him more than a week to read the case history and court decisions, but no more than three weeks to get rid of a file.

In an indirect criticism of his predecessors, Mukherjee pointed out that APJ Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil left a large number of pending cases, the former dismissing almost no petitions and the latter granting pardons to 34 convicts and rejecting only three petitions. “I rejected 30 pleas for clemency involving nearly 40 convicts … I didn’t see any point in keeping such files pending.”

Hindustan Times

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